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But over here, today, I want to talk about mastermind groups as a productivity tool, and as the single biggest lesson I learned in 2011.
The bottom line: a small (3 to 5 member) group of fellow couch warriors can and should be your secret weapon in your marketing arsenal, because of the way a strong group like that amplifies the creativity and productivity of each of its members.
Like ripples in a pond, the effects of the small mastermind group go way beyond its immediate impact.
The Blog Posse and Me
As I wrote over at the Stage Presence blog:
[F]or the last several months, I’ve been blessed to be part of a small group of five other women business owners and bloggers, which we rather tongue-in-cheek-ily named “The Blog Posse.” We do twice-monthly phone calls where we reveal our successes and challenges, focus on two members in the “hot seat” where we focus in more depth on specific challenges, and close by stating individual goals we want to achieve before the next call.
So, each call begins with a five- or ten-minute section where we each take turns recounting our successes and challenges since the last call, getting some instant feedback and validation in the process.
Then we move on to the hot-seat portion, where two pre-selected members get 15-20 minutes each to present a specific challenge and get the group’s targeted feedback.
Two hot-seaters are chosen at the end of each call and, before the next call, they fill out a mastermind form outlining the issue, what’s been done to pursue the goal, what the group can do to help … then circulate their forms to the others. This way, when the hot-seaters go front-and-center, we’re all up to speed.
Finally, we end up each call by announcing to the group what we want to be held accountable for, in the two week interim before the next call. Everybody announces a goal, and we hold each other to it, periodically checking in on each other, sharing progress … it’s like a built-in team of coaches for free!
Check it out: I’ve gotten group permission to share the form we use! The attached Blog Master Mind Prep Worksheet, in .DOCX format, can be saved to your hard drive by right-clicking the link and saving the document. This particular form is the one that was originally shared with us by Clare Price of Five Easy Pages. If you prefer, you can use this version in PDF.
Accountability + Creativity: How Mastermind Groups Fuel Productivity
Before this magical land of group-sourced awesomeness was revealed to me, I was a firm believer in the power of one: the ability of a dedicated-unto-obsession individual to change the world. Or at least start and run a profitable business on the web.
All well and good, of course. But then, as obsessions are wont to do, this one kinda turned. It fermented, if you will, into a slightly off version of itself. Instead of championing the power of one, it turned into a screed of “I can do it myself so I MUST DO IT ALONE!”
Which is, of course, pure and unadulterated foolishness.
‘Cause look: we all have things we rock at and things we suck at. We all have things we love to do and things we hate to do, too. And those four quadrants don’t always align perfectly. We may rock at things we hate. (Exhibit A: My late unlamented law career.) We may suck at things we really enjoy. (Exhibit B: my … um … “paintings.”) And where suckage meets necessity, there’s an area that’s primed for one of two things: growth, or outsourcing.
The mastermind group (which term I’m starting to hate because it doesn’t come near close enough to evoking its pure genius and utility) helps you through those spaces. It even helps you recognize when you’re about to set foot in one of those spaces, before you ever get there.
That’s because the group-mind has a few kick-ass qualities that make it worth much, much more than the sum of its glorious parts: collective wisdom + perspective + affection.
You get the benefit of the collected wisdom stemming from the experiences, direct and observed, of each of the group’s members.
You also get the benefit of their heightened objectivity towards problems that threaten to overwhelm you like a rising tide. Their vantage points are at a distance and height that gives them greater perspective.
And, best of all, because a good group becomes a little like a family, you get all this goodness filtered through a healthy dose of affection. Do you know how it feels to have a handful of really smart, creative people whose opinions you respect cheering you on and rooting for you to succeed? Can you imagine how that might fuel your day and get you over the rough spots?
And all of this goodness — the collective wisdom/experience + the perspective + the affection — gives you two of the mightiest weapons in your battle to get your shit done: accountability and creativity.
You’re accountable not just to yourself or your bottom line anymore. Your group members WILL remember what you promised to get done. They WILL (or should) ride you hard if you don’t do it.
You’re also given the benefit of a multitude of creative minds focused on your problem or challenge. One brain alone gets wiped out, taxed too much, overwhelmed. Five such minds working together? Get that shit done fast, and then order takeout Thai to celebrate as they move on to the next “insurmountable” challenge.
Y’know, I could go for days on this riff.
And I will be writing more about it, for sure (both here and at Stage Presence). But for now, let me just say this: ain’t no one-woman shows on the business web. They might look like a solo act, but if it’s long-term and for-reals success you’re after, you’re gonna need help.
And that was the single biggest lesson I learned in 2011.
What did you learn last year? Have you tried mastermind groups before? What did you think? Are you curious about starting one yourself? Share your story below!
Photo credit: John Evans